Turkey is a nation straddling eastern Europe and western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Cosmopolitan Istanbul, on the Bosphorus Strait, is home to the iconic Hagia Sophia, with its soaring dome and Christian mosaics, the massive 17th-century Blue Mosque and the circa-1460 Topkapı Palace, former home of sultans. Ankara is Turkey’s modern capital.
Trip Planning: The planning stage of your trip can be instrumental in its success and an enjoyable part of the experience itself. You have a world of options...and plenty to consider.
Entry and Exit formalities: Visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months & beyond at the time of entering the country. Some nationalities can obtain visa on arrival and for nationalities who requires visa please refer to the Turkey consulate website: https://www.mfa.gov.tr
Transportation: Figuring out how to get around is one of your biggest pre-trip decisions. Get our holiday expert best advice on deciding between your options.
Based on your trip itinerary, our experts will help you choose wisely. You'll also find a wealth of practical travel tips.
Money: Use your money wisely. Know the best time to use cash or card — and how to avoid unnecessary fees either way — as well as tipping etiquette.
Phones and Technology: Phones and other smart devices can be huge time-savers...or expensive distractions. Get our tips for making the best use of technology during your trip, and for calling home with or without your own phone.
Packing Light: On your trip you'll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
Sleeping and Eating: Your hotel and restaurant choices can be a matter-of-face chore…or they can provide rich opportunities to connect with locals and their culture.
Health & Hygiene: Take comfort: Doctors, hospitals, launderettes, and bathrooms aren’t that different. Dealing with them can even be part of the fun of travel.
Sightseeing & Activities: Once you're on the ground, the real fun begins…but it pays to have a thoughtful plan. Our experts will help you get oriented to your surroundings, use your sightseeing hours wisely, and find your way off the beaten path.
Things to see & do:
Istanbul - is a major city in Turkey that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait. Its Old City reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races, and Egyptian obelisks also remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics.
Ankara -Turkey’s cosmopolitan capital, sits in the country’s central Anatolia region. It’s a center for the performing arts, home to the State Opera and Ballet, the Presidential Symphony Orchestra and several national theater companies. Overlooking the city is Anitkabir, the enormous hilltop mausoleum of Kemal Atatürk, modern Turkey’s first president, who declared Ankara the capital in 1923.
Izmir - is a city on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Known as Smyrna in antiquity, it was founded by the Greeks, taken over by the Romans and rebuilt by Alexander the Great before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Today, its expansive archaeological sites include the Roman Agora of Smyrna, now an open-air museum. The hilltop Kadifekale, or Velvet Castle, built during Alexander’s reign, overlooks the city.
Antalya- is a Turkish resort city with a yacht-filled Old Harbor and beaches flanked by large hotels. It's a gateway to Turkey's southern Mediterranean region, known as the Turquoise Coast for its blue waters. Remnants remain from Antalya's time as a major Roman port. These include Hadrian’s Gate, built to honor the Roman emperor’s visit in 130 A.D and 2nd-century Hidirlik Tower, with harbor views.
Bursa - is a large city in northwest Turkey, lying in the foothills of roughly 2,500m-high Mount Uludağ near the Sea of Marmara. The city is known for its mosques and historical sites from the early Ottoman Empire. It's nicknamed "Yeşil Bursa" (Green Bursa), owing to its many parks and trees, as well as its dramatic mountain backdrop. The 14th-century Ulu Cami (Great Mosque) features Seljuk-style arches and 20 domes.
Bodrum - is a city on the Bodrum Peninsula, stretching from Turkey's southwest coast into the Aegean Sea. The city features twin bays with views of Bodrum Castle. This medieval fortress was built partly with stones from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, completed in the 4th century B.C. The city is also a gateway for nearby beach towns and resorts.
Kuşadası - is a beach resort town on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. A jumping-off point for visiting the classical ruins at nearby Ephesus (or Efes), it’s also a major cruise ship destination. Its seafront promenade, marina, and harbor are lined with hotels and restaurants. Just offshore on Pigeon Island is a walled Byzantine castle that once guarded the town, connected to the mainland via causeway. Explore the spectacular ancient city of Ephesus on a private shore excursion from the Kusadasi port. Learn about the rich history of this ancient city and visit the House of Virgin Mary, the Basilica of St John and the Temple or Artemis (also known as Temple of Diana). At the Ephesus Museum, see excavations from Ephesus, as well as frescoes, mosaics and the two famous statues of the Artemis of Ephesus. A private guided tour ensures you make the most of your brief time in port.
Trabzon - is a city on the Black Sea coast of northeast Turkey. Built as a church in the 13th century, the city's Hagia Sophia has served as a hospital and a museum, but today is a mosque with restored ceiling frescoes. The Trabzon Museum, set in an early-20th-century mansion with rococo and art-nouveau elements, traces the city’s history with archaeological and ethnographic exhibitions.
Kayseri - is a large industrialised city in Central Anatolia, Turkey. It is the seat of Kayseri Province. The monumental black-basalt walls of Kayseri castle were first constructed under Roman emperor Gordian III and rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian 300 years later. The imposing edifice you see today though is mostly the work of 13th-century Seljuk sultan Alaattin Keykubat.
Cappadocia - a semi-arid region in central Turkey, is known for its distinctive “fairy chimneys,” tall, cone-shaped rock formations clustered in Monks Valley, Göreme and elsewhere. Other notables sites include Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by troglodytes (cave dwellers) and later used as refuges by early Christians. The 100m-deep Ihlara Canyon houses numerous rock-face churches. Rose Valley, Ortahisar, Kaymakli Underground City and Pigeon Valley. Explore this strange-but-beautiful UNESCO-listed region with its ‘fairy chimney’ rock pillars, cave villages and subterranean cities. Walk through stunning Rose Valley; Zelve into Kaymakli Underground City; see the abandoned village of Çavuşin, and ogle Ortahisar Castle and Pigeon Valley, with its rock dovecotes.
Pamukkale - is a town in western Turkey known for the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. It neighbors Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 B.C. Ruins there include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis with sarcophagi that stretch for 2km. The Antique Pool is famous for its submerged Roman columns, the result of an earthquake.
Çanakkale - is a city in northwestern Turkey in the Marmara region, on the Dardanelles Strait. It’s a gateway to the Gallipoli WWI battlefields, north of the narrow strait. On the grounds of the 15th-century Çimenlik Castle, Çanakkale Naval Museum Command contains historical artillery. The archaeological site at Troy, including an ancient theater, is southwest of the city.
Fethiye is a port city, and district, on Turkey's southwestern Turquoise Coast. It's known for its natural harbor, blue waters and numerous rock tombs including the 4th-century B.C. Tomb of Amyntas, carved into a bluff overlooking the city. Near-shore islands are popular for day trips by boat. In the south, the beach at Ölüdeniz is sheltered by a lagoon, and Butterfly Valley is a designated nature reserve.
Marmaris - is a Mediterranean resort town along the Turkish Riviera (also known as the Turquoise Coast) with a busy, pebbly beach and long seafront promenade. It’s known for its lively nightlife on Bar Street, which is home to open-air clubs and music venues. Marmaris sits in a valley between pine-forested mountains and clear waters, which are popular sailing and diving destinations.
Edirne - is a city in the northwest of Turkey. In the center of the city, the 16th-century Selimiye Mosque, built by architect Mimar Sinan, is considered an Ottoman classic, with a large dome and 4 minarets. The Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, inside the mosque complex, has religious and ethnographic displays dating from the Ottoman era. The nearby 15th-century Üç Şerefeli Mosque has 3 balconies on one of its minarets.
Alanya - is a resort town on Turkey’s central Mediterranean coast (also known as the Turkish Riviera). Its wide beaches lined with hotels include Cleopatra Beach, where the Egyptian queen reputedly swam. Alanya Castle, a giant Seljuk-era fort turned open-air museum, stands on a rocky bluff above the beachfront, alongside red tile–roofed Ottoman villas and the octagonal Red Tower, a symbol of the city dating to 1226.
Çeşme - is a Turkish resort town west of Izmir, on the Aegean Sea. Overlooking the harbor is Çeşme Castle, a restored military fortress. It now houses the Çeşme Archaeology Museum, with displays of marble busts, metal coins and artifacts from nearby excavations. On the east side of the Çeşme peninsula is sandy Ilica Beach, with warm thermal sulfur springs. Around Çeşme are clear waters and accessible dive sites.
Pergamon or Pergamum - also referred to by its modern Greek form Pergamos, was a rich and powerful ancient Greek city in Mysia. It is located 26 kilometres from the modern coastline of the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus and northwest of the modern city of Bergama, Turkey.
Yalova is a city located in northwestern Turkey, near the eastern coast of the Sea of Marmara. The termal district is twelve kilometres from Yalova city centre, and what the region is most famous for. Four hotels in the area offer access to healing thermal waters that scientists say ease symptoms of various ailments including skin, orthopaedic, mental diseases, and functional disorders. It is not a new trend because, throughout Turkey, soldiers from different empires over time used spa waters to heal after battle.
Lake Abant is a freshwater lake in Turkey's Bolu Province in northwest Anatolia, formed as a result of a great landslide. The lake lies at an altitude of 1,328 m at a distance of 32 km from the provincial seat of Bolu city.
Adalar The Princes’ Islands - are a cluster of 9 islands southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. Mainly car-free, the islands are known for their horse-drawn carriages (phaetons). At the highest point of Büyükada, the largest island, the 6th-century Hagia Yorgi Church has panoramic views. Nearby are the pine forests of Dil Burnu National Park. The Museum of the Princes’ Islands has exhibits on the islands’ history.
Büyükada - is the largest island and the most popular with tourists. Whether it is the historic pier, big market square, famous fish restaurants, spectacular summer mansions lining Çankaya Street, or the Aya Yorgi monastery overlooking the blue sea, Büyükada welcomes visitors with its history and beauty.
Kars - is a city on a high plateau in northeastern Turkey, near the Armenian border. It’s a gateway to the abandoned Armenian city of Ani to the east, with its ruined 11th-century churches, mosques and palaces in a remote open field. On the outskirts of Kars, the Kars Museum has historical artifacts, including images of the excavation of Ani. The hilltop Kars Castle overlooks the meandering Kars River.
Giresun - formerly Cerasus, is the provincial capital of Giresun Province in the Black Sea Region of northeastern Turkey, about 175 km west of the city of Trabzon.
Isparta - is a city in western Turkey and the capital of Isparta Province. The city's population was 222,556 in 2010 and its elevation is 1035 m. It is known as the "City of Roses". Isparta is well-connected to other parts of Turkey via roads. Antalya lies 130 km to the south and Eskişehir is 350 km to the north.
Antakya - is the capital of Hatay Province, the southernmost province of Turkey. The city is located in a well-watered and fertile valley on the Orontes River, about 20 kilometers from the Levantine Sea.
Denizli - is an industrial city in the southwestern part of Turkey and the eastern end of the alluvial valley formed by the river Büyük Menderes, where the plain reaches an elevation of about three hundred and fifty metres. Denizli is located in the country's Aegean Region.
Mersin - is a port city in southern Turkey on the Mediterranean coast. It’s a gateway to Tarsus, a nearby Christian pilgrimage destination where St. Paul’s Well commemorates the saint’s birthplace. Nearby is Cleopatra’s Gate, one of the remaining ruins of the old Roman defensive walls. In the city, the Mersin Museum exhibits archaeological artifacts and sculptures from nearby burial mounds and excavations.
Konya is a city south of Ankara in Turkey’s Central Anatolia region. It’s a pilgrimage destination for Sufis, focused on the tomb of the founder of the Mevlana order, Jelaleddin Rumi, in the Mevlana Museum. Sema whirling dervish ceremonies take place at the Mevlana Cultural Center, east of the museum. The 12th-century Alaeddin Mosque is surrounded by the green parks of Alaeddin Hill.
Gaziantep- previously and still informally called Antep, is the capital of Gaziantep Province, in the western part of Turkey's Southeastern Anatolia Region, some 185 kilometres east of Adana and 97 kilometres north of Aleppo, Syria
Urfa, officially known as Şanlıurfa, - is a city with a population of over 2 million residents in southeastern Turkey, and the capital of Şanlıurfa Province. Urfa is a multiethnic city with a Turkish, Kurdish and Arab population. Urfa is situated on a plain about 80 km east of the Euphrates River.
Eskişehir - is a city in northwestern Turkey and the capital of the Eskişehir Province. In the Byzantine era its name was Dorylaeum.
Mardin - is a city in southeastern Turkey. The capital of Mardin Province, it is known for the Artuqid architecture of its old city, and for its strategic location on a rocky hill near the Tigris River that rises steeply over the flat plains.
Adana - is a Cilician city in southern Turkey. The city is situated on the Seyhan River, 35 km inland from the north-eastern coast of the Mediterranean sea.
Diyarbakır - is one of the largest cities in Turkey. Situated around a high plateau by the banks of the Tigris river on which stands the historic Diyarbakır Fortress, it is the administrative capital of the Diyarbakır Province of south-eastern Turkey.
İzmit - known as Nicomedia in antiquity, is a district and the capital of Kocaeli province, Turkey. It is located at the Gulf of İzmit in the Sea of Marmara, about 100 km east of Istanbul, on the northwestern part of Anatolia.
Samsun - is a city on the north coast of Turkey. It is the provincial capital of Samsun Province and a major Black Sea port. The growing city has two universities, several hospitals, shopping malls, much light manufacturing industry, sports facilities and an opera.
Amasya - is a city in northern Turkey and is the capital of Amasya Province, in the Black Sea Region. Tokat from east, Tokat and Yozgat from south, Çorum from west, Samsun from north.
Malatya - is a large city in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey and the capital of Malatya Province. The city has been a human settlement for thousands of years.
Kahramanmaraş - is a city in the Mediterranean Region of Turkey and the administrative center of Kahramanmaraş Province. Before 1973, Kahramanmaraş was named Maraş. The city lies on a plain at the foot of the Ahir Dağı.
Erzurum - is a city in eastern Anatolia. It is the largest city in and capital of Erzurum Province. It is situated 1900 meters above sea level.
Manisa - historically known as Magnesia, is a large city in Turkey's Aegean Region and the administrative seat of Manisa Province.
Birecik - also formerly known as Bir, Biré, Biradjik and during the Crusades as Bile, is a town and district of Şanlıurfa Province of Turkey, on the River Euphrates.
Sinop - historically known as Sinope, is a city with a population of 219,733 on the isthmus of İnce Burun, near Cape Sinope which is situated on the northernmost edge of the Turkish side of the Black Sea coast, in the ancient region of Paphlagonia, in modern-day northern Turkey.
Artvin - is a city in northeastern Turkey about 30 km inland from the Black Sea. It is located on a hill overlooking the Çoruh River near the Deriner Dam. It is a former bishopric and Armenian Catholic titular see and the home of Artvin Çoruh University.
Nevşehir - formerly Neapolis and Muşkara, is a city and the capital district of Nevşehir Province in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey.
Bergama - is a populous district, as well as the center city of the same district, in İzmir Province in western Turkey. By excluding İzmir's metropolitan area, it is one of the prominent districts of the province in terms of population and is largely urbanized at the rate of 53.6%.
Aksaray - is a city in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey and the capital district of Aksaray Province
Niğde - is a town and the capital of Niğde Province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey at an elevation of 1,299 m.
Ürgüp - is a town and district of Nevşehir Province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. It is located in the historical region of Cappadocia, and near the cave Churches of Göreme.
Bolu - is a city in Turkey, and administrative center of the Bolu Province. The city has been governed by mayor Alaaddin Yılmaz since local elections in 2004. It was the site of Ancient Claudiopolis and has also been called Eskihisar.
Zonguldak - is a city and the capital of Zonguldak Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey. It was established in 1849 as a port town for the nearby coal mines in Ereğli and the coal trade remains its main economic activity.
Çankırı - is the capital city of Çankırı Province, in Turkey, about 140 km northeast of Ankara. It is situated about 800 m above sea level.
Sivas - is a city in central Turkey and the seat of Sivas Province. The city, which lies at an elevation of 1,278 metres in the broad valley of the Kızılırmak river, is a moderately-sized trade center and industrial city, although the economy has traditionally been based on agriculture.
Adapazarı - is a city in northwestern Turkey and the capital of Sakarya Province. The province itself was originally named Adapazarı as well. Adapazarı is a part of the densely populated region of the country known as the Marmara Region.
ANZAC Day Memorial Tour- With symbolic links to the dawn landing at Gallipoli, stand in the morning breeze and pay respect to the fallen on ANZAC Day at a dawn vigil. This special three-day trip includes a private bus along the Dardanelles, from Istanbul to the memorial site commemorating the common sacrifice for all of the nations involved.
Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia- The historical Sultanahmet neighborhood where many of the city’s finest architectural legacies and landmarks are found. Visit the Blue Mosque and museums of Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, as well as Istanbul Hippodrome, the sunken palace of Basilica Cistern and the dazzling Grand Bazaar.
Aya Sofia - The Byzantine Emperor Justinian entered his finished church for the first time in AD 536, he cried out "Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work. Oh Solomon, I have outdone you!" The Aya Sofya (formerly the Hagia Sophia) was the emperor's swaggering statement to the world of the wealth and technical ability of his empire. Tradition maintained that the area surrounding the emperor's throne within the church was the official center of the world.
Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi) - First built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century, this glorious palace beside the Bosphorus was where the sultans of the Ottoman Empire ruled over their dominions up until the 19th century. The vast complex is a dazzling display of Islamic art, with opulent. The courtyards lined with intricate hand-painted tile-work, linking a warren of sumptuously decorated rooms, all bounded by battlemented walls and towers. The most popular are the Harem (where the sultan's many concubines and children would spend their days); the Second Court, where you can walk through the vast Palace Kitchens and stand in awe at the dazzling interior of the Imperial Council Chamber; and the Third Court, which contained the sultan's private rooms.
Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) - Sultan Ahmet I's grand architectural gift to his capital was this beautiful mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque today. Built between 1609 and 1616, the mosque caused a furore throughout the Muslim world when it was finished, as it had six minarets (the same number as the Great Mosque of Mecca). A seventh minaret was eventually gifted to Mecca to stem the dissent. The mosque gets its nickname from its interior decoration of tens of thousands of Iznik tiles. The entire spatial and color effect of the interior makes the mosque one of the finest achievements of Ottoman architecture. A great sightseeing joy of a trip to Istanbul is wandering amid the gardens sandwiched between the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya to experience their dueling domes in twin glory. Come at dusk for extra ambience, as the call to prayer echoes out from the Blue Mosque's minaret.
Turkish Dinner and Show-Istanbul by night means floodlit mosques, a fabulous Turkish dinner and a spectacular floorshow with bejeweled belly dancers. It's the ultimate Turkish experience!
Istanbul Tour with Cruise and Dolmabahce Palace-See Istanbul’s ornate palaces and architecture from land and water on this exciting full-day tour! From the comfort of a coach, you'll see top Istanbul attractions like the Golden Horn and Walls of Constantinople, and then soak up the colorful chaos of Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar on a stroll. Enjoy a Bosphorus Strait sightseeing cruise, and then head inside Dolmabahçe Palace to discover the extravagance of Istanbul’s bygone sultans.
Hagia Sophia, Basillica Cistern and Grand Bazaar-Get a glimpse of Istanbul's fascinating Imperial legacies on this half-day sightseeing tour with an expert local guide. First visit Hagia Sophia, once one of the largest basilicas in the world and now the second-most visited museum in Turkey. Venture below ground to the ancient Basilica Cistern, which once supported the Great Palace of Constantinople, and hone your haggling skills at the bustling Grand Bazaar, one of the world's largest and oldest covered markets where you can shop for jewelry, spices, leather goods and souvenirs galore.
Bosphorus Cruise and Istanbul's Egyptian Bazaar-Explore the aromatic maze of stalls that make up Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar, and then hop aboard a sightseeing boat for a jaunt along the famous Bosphorus Strait! After traveling to the bazaar by coach and learning about the city from an onboard guide, enjoy some free time to explore and browse stalls selling fresh mint, cardamom, cinnamon and more. Follow up the market visit with a Bosphorus sightseeing cruise and see a collection of sights including the decadent Dolmabahçe Palace and Rumeli Hisarı Fortress.
Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarniçi) - The Basilica Cistern is one of Istanbul's most surprising tourist attractions. This huge, palace-like underground hall, supported by 336 columns in 12 rows, once stored the imperial water supply for the Byzantine emperors. The project was begun by Constantine the Great but finished by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Many of the columns used in construction were recycled from earlier classical structures and feature decorative carvings. The most famous of these are the column bases known as the Medusa stones in the northwest corner with their Medusa head carvings.
Hippodrome - The ancient Hippodrome was begun by Septimius Severus in AD 203 and completed by Constantine the Great in AD 330. This was the center of Byzantine public life and the scene of splendid games and chariot races but also factional conflicts. Today, there isn't much of the Hippodrome left to see, except for a small section of the gallery walls on the southern side, but the At Meydani (park), which now stands on the site is home to a variety of monuments. On the northwest side is a fountain, presented to the Ottoman sultan by the German Emperor William II in 1898. Heading southwest are three ancient monuments: a 20-meter high Egyptian obelisk (from Heliopolis); the Serpent Column brought here from Delphi by Constantine; and a stone obelisk that originally was clad in gold-covered bronze plating until they were stolen by the soldiers of the 4th Crusade in 1204.
Istanbul Archaeology Museum - Jump away from Topkapi Palace, this important museum complex brings together a staggering array of artifacts from Turkey and throughout the Middle East, which sweeps through the vast breadth of history of this region. There are three separate sections in the complex, each of which are worthy of a visit: the Museum of the Ancient Orient; the main Archaeology Museum; and the Tiled Pavilion of Mehmet the Conqueror, which holds a staggering collection of ceramic art. As well as all the wonderful artifacts on display, don't miss the interesting Istanbul Through the Ages exhibit room in the main Archaeology Museum.
Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) - This massive covered market is basically the world's first shopping mall, taking up a whole city quarter, surrounded by thick walls, between the Nure Osmaniye Mosque and Beyazit Mosque. The Beyazit Mosque (built in 1498-1505) itself occupies the site of Theodosius I's Forum and has architecture inspired by the Aya Sofya. Entrance to the bazaar is through one of 11 gates from where a maze of vaulted-ceiling laneways, lined by shops and stalls selling every Turkish souvenir and handicraft you could imagine, cover the area. The various trades are still mostly segregated into particular sections, which makes browsing easier. Near the bazaar's Divanyolu Caddesi entrance is the Burned Column. This stump (still 40 meters high) of a porphyry column was set up by Constantine the Great in his forum. Until 1105, it bore a bronze statue of Constantine.
Süleymaniye Mosque - is one of the most recognized landmarks of Istanbul. It was built for Süleyman the Magnificent by the famed Ottoman architect Sinan between 1549 and 75. The interior, dominated by its soaring 53-meter-high dome is notable for its harmonious proportions and unity of design. Outside in the tranquil garden area is an interesting Ottoman cemetery that is also home to the türbes (tombs) of the Sultan Süleyman and his wife Haseki Hürrem Sultan (known in the west as Roxelana).
Spice Bazaar (Misir Çarsisi) - is the place to get your foodie fix of lokum (Turkish delight), dried fruit, nuts, herbs, and, of course, spices. Much of the money that helped construct it came from the taxes the Ottoman government levied on Egyptian-made products, which is why its name in Turkish (Misir Çarsisi) means "Egyptian Market." The Spice Bazaar is one of the most popular things to do, and at certain times of the day gets ridiculously crowded with huge tour groups from the docked cruise ships. Just next door to the Spice Bazaar's main entrance is the stately Yeni Camii (New Mosque), which was begun in 1615 and finished in 1663-that's "new" for Istanbul. It is worthwhile taking a peek inside while you're sightseeing in the area, as the interior is richly decorated with tile-work and liberal use of gold leaf.
Dolmabahçe Palace - The sumptuous and ornate Dolmabahçe Palace shows the clear influence of European decoration and architecture on the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Built by Sultan Abdülmecid I in 1854, it replaced Topkapi Palace as the main residence of the sultans. The formal gardens are punctuated with fountains, ornamental basins, and blooming flower beds, while inside the sheer splendor and pomp of the Turkish Renaissance style is dazzling. The interiors mix Rococo, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Ottoman elements, with mammoth crystal chandeliers, liberal use of gold, French-style furniture, and dazzling frescoed ceilings.
Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi) - means "country" in Greek, and this beautiful Church (originally called the Church of St. Saviour of Chora) lay just outside old Constantinople's city walls. The first Chora Church was probably built here in the 5th century, but what you see now is the building's 6th reconstruction as it was destroyed completely in the 9th century and went through several facelifts from the 11th to 14th centuries. The church (now a museum) is rightly world-famous for its fabulously vibrant 14th-century mosaics, preserved almost intact in the two narthexes and fragmentarily in the nave, and the frescoes along the walls and domes. These incredible examples of Byzantine artistry cover a wide range of themes, from the genealogy of Christ to the New Testament stories.
Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (Türk ve Islam Eserleri Müzesi) - Housed in the palace of Ibrahim Pasa, who was Grand Vizier for Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, this museum is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in Ottoman and Islamic art. The carpet collection on display here is vast and is heralded by textile experts as the world's best. This is a prime place to come have a peek at the dazzling array of styles of Turkish carpets (along with carpets from the Caucasus and Iran) across the centuries before setting out on a shopping mission to purchase your own floor piece. There are also exquisite ceramics, calligraphy, and wood carving exhibits ranging in date from the 9th century AD to the 19th century.
Little Aya Sofya (Küçük Aya Sofya) - Before Emperor Justinian built the Aya Sofya, he had to test out if the building would work structurally, so he built this miniature version first. Its original name was the Church of Sergius and Bacchus, but the obvious architectural parallels with the Aya Sofya led to its long-held nickname becoming the building's official title. During the Ottoman era, the church was converted into a mosque and it still functions as a working mosque today. The building has been beautifully restored and is well worth a visit. The walk here, down narrow alleyways lined with tall Ottoman era buildings-some lavishly restored and others creaking their way into dilapidation is a tranquil respite from central Sultanahmet. Take the time to have a glass of tea in the Little Aya Sofya's peaceful garden to sustain you for further sightseeing exploits.
Rüstem Pasa Mosque - is home to the most stunningly preserved Iznik tile panels in the city. Sure the Blue Mosque may get all the glory, but it's here-covering both the exterior courtyard walls and the mosque interior itself-that you'll find the best examples of these gorgeously intricate hand-painted tiles in blues, reds, and greens. Even better, as it's less known, you're likely to be able to admire them up close without having to battle any crowds. Finding the mosque adds to the fun as it's squirreled down a skinny lane lined with market stalls and always bustling with life, near the Spice Bazaar.
Yedikule Fortress (Yedikule Hisari)- The schlep on the suburban train to get out to Yedikule, this commanding fortress is well worth it. Built in the 5th century by the Emperor Theodosius II, the fortress made up the southern section of Constantinople's defensive walls. The mammoth arch (blocked up in the late Byzantine period) was known as Porta Aurea (Golden Gate), with doors plated in gold. When the Ottomans conquered the city, they used the fortress for defense, and later as a prison and execution place. Yedikule has been restored in recent years, and you can climb up to the top of the battlements for superb views across the Sea of Marmara.
Galata Tower - This Genoese tower was built in the 14th century and is one of Istanbul's most recognizable landmarks. Take the elevator or the stairs for great panoramic views over the city from the top balcony. Be aware, though, that it's a super popular sight, so come early or be prepared to wait in line.
Carpet Museum - For many people, a trip to Istanbul isn't complete without at least one trip to a carpet shop. Head here, to find out more about the incredible heritage and artistry of carpets before you purchase your own rug to bring home. Housed in one of the outer buildings of the Aya Sofya complex, the three galleries here walk you through the history of Turkish carpets and the dazzling array of motifs and styles from different regions of the country. Think of it as your Turkish carpet 101.
Istanbul Modern - Proving that Istanbul isn't just about historic sightseeing, this thoroughly up-to-the-minute art gallery holds an extensive collection of Turkish modern art with an ever-changing calendar of exhibitions, hosting both local and international artists throughout the year. This is by far the best place in town to get your finger on the pulse of Turkey's contemporary art scene. The galleries are being temporarily hosted in a historic Beyoglu building while they wait for the completion of this art museum's new permanent home in Karaköy.
Fatih Mosque - is home to this important mosque built by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, who finally broke through Constantinople's walls, ending the Byzantine era. Built atop a hill, so its multiple domes and minarets soar above the district, it's a grandly imposing building. As the first of Istanbul's grand imperial mosques to be built, as well as being home to Sultan Mehmet's tomb, it's an important historic building and a popular pilgrimage site for locals.
Pera Museum - Istanbul's most famous art gallery is the lovely Pera Museum, which is where art-hounds head to drink in one of the finest collections of Ottoman-era painting in the world. As well as the art, make time to wander through the rest of their collection, which includes plenty of ceramics along with other Ottoman period objects. The program of regularly changing exhibitions often displays some of the art world's biggest names.
Istiklal Caddesi and Taksim - Pedestrianized Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Street) is a bustling modern shopping street with a wealth of restaurants and cafés. The lower end of the street can be reached by taking the world's oldest underground railway from near Galata Bridge, the Tünel, constructed in 1875. There is also a quaintly old-fashioned tramway that runs along its length right up to Taksim Square at the top of the hill. From Taksim Square, busy Cumhuriyet Caddesi is lined with hotels, shops, restaurants, and high rises. On the east side of the road, just after the square, is Maçka Park, which is home to the interesting Military Museum. The area around Istiklal Caddesi is home to many churches and old consulate buildings with ornate facades. Also nearby is Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence. Pamuk is Turkey's most famous author and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. This conceptual-art museum is based around the theme of his novel The Museum of Innocence and is a rather bizarre, kooky, and wonderfully atmospheric experience.
Üsküdar - Istanbul's Asian shore is easily reached by ferry from Eminönü dock across the Bosphorus. On an islet just off the Asiatic shore stands the 30-meter-high Kiz Kulesi, (Maiden's Tower). Üsküdar was traditionally known as Scutari and has some handsome old mosques, winding lanes, and weathered brown timber houses (particularly between the ferry dock and the large cemetery). The town, known in antiquity as Chrysopolis, was one of the earliest Greek settlements on the Bosporus. It was much more exposed to attack by foreign conquerors than Constantinople, with its defensive situation and strong walls, but it was able to draw economic advantage from its exposed situation until 1800 it was the terminus of the caravan routes that brought the treasures of the East to Constantinople and onwards to Europe. The Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, built by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1547 for his daughter Mihrimah, and the Yeni Valide Mosque, built in the 18th century by Sultan Ahmet III.
Kusadasi-Ephesus-Explore Ephesus, the best-preserved ancient city in Turkey, on this shore excursion from Kusadasi. A commercial, religious and social center during ancient Greek and Roman times, Ephesus is full of spectacular ruins. While your ship waits in the Kusadasi port, you can discover ancient sights like the Fountains of Trajan, the Temple of Hadrian, the Library of Celsius and the Great Theater.
Ephesus and St. Mary's House-No trip to Turkey is complete without exploring the ancient ruins of Ephesus-the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean. You will also visit the final resting place of the Virgin Mary on this day trip from Izmir.
House of Virgin Mary - is located on the top of the "Bulbul" mountain 9 km ahead of Ephesus, the shrine of Virgin Mary enjoys a marvelous atmosphere hidden in the green. It is the place where Mary may have spent her last days. Indeed, she may have come in the area together with Saint John, who spent several years in the area to spread Christianity. Mary preferred this remote place rather than living in crowded place.
Gallipoli-Explore Gallipoli’s World War I battlefields on a day trip from Istanbul, and visit the poignant memorial sites dedicated to fallen Australian, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers. With an expert guide at your side, learn all about the brutal WWI campaign that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula and hear lesser-known tales about soldiers who lost their lives. Lunch, plus visits to key historical sites such as ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine, the Nek and Ari Burnu Cemetrart are included.
Troy-Visit the ancient city of Troy and learn about its significance in Greek mythology as the main battlefield in the Trojan War. On the journey from Istanbul, stop for lunch in the coastal town of Eceabat, and then enjoy a walking tour around the archaeological site of Troy. Learn about the different eras that stamped their mark on the fascinating settlement and see the famous Trojan Horse statue.
Kusadasi-Explore the spectacular ancient city of Ephesus on a private shore excursion from the Kusadasi port. Learn about the rich history of this ancient city and visit the House of Virgin Mary, the Basilica of St John and the Temple or Artemis (also known as Temple of Diana). At the Ephesus Museum, see excavations from Ephesus, as well as frescoes, mosaics and the two famous statues of the Artemis of Ephesus. A private guided tour ensures you make the most of your brief time in port.
Pamukkale and Hierapolis- a unique natural wonder with dazzling white petrified lime cascades. At the ancient city of Hierapolis explore its Theater, a 2nd century AD building in Roman style. You'll also see the exceptional Necropolis, the largest ancient cemetery in Anatolia.
Pergamum and Asklepion from Izmir-Visit Pergamum, an ancient city dating before the 4th century BC. It's home to the second largest library in the ancient world, the steepest Theatre of Anatolia, the monumental Altar of Zeus and the Roman Medical Center ruins of Asklepion, work site of the great physician, Galen.